Former Mets Pitcher: Ray Burris (1979-1980)

Bertram Ray Burris
was born August 22, 1950 in Idabel, Oklahoma. He grew up on a farm of in a poor family of sharecroppers. He suffered through segregation of that time but worked hard in all areas of life & excelled in sports.

The tall six foot five, right hander went to Southwestern Oklahoma State University getting drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 17th round of the 1972 draft.

MLB Career-Cubs Burris was brought up to the big leagues the next season by a Cub staff in desperate need of a pitcher. On April 18th, in his second career game, he got a start at Shea Stadium against the New York Mets. Burris pitched five innings allowed just four hits & no runs, earning his first career victory. It would be his only start & win of the season. He went 1-1 in 31 games posting a 2.92 ERA.

After two seasons as a reliever, he was put into the Cub rotation in 1975. He would be a regular on the Cubs staff for the next four seasons, winning 15 games twice (1975 & 1976) leading the team in victories & innings pitched both years.

In 1975 he was 15-10 but struck out the least number of batters among Cub starters (108) & actually gave up more earned runs (109) than strike outs. That season he posted a 4.12 ERA & allowed 238 hits.

The next year 1976, he lost 13 games but won 15 (15-13) but posted a better ERA (3.11). In those seasons he was in the league's top ten in starts, hits & HRs allowed. Although he had some stretches of being a top pitcher, he was always plagued by the long ball, serving up twenty plus HRs four times.

In 1977, on opening day he took a loss to Tom Seaver & the Mets. Burris had a 2-0 lead but then was relieved by Bruce Sutter who allowed all inherited base runners to score. On May 20th he hit his only career HR, coming off former Met Buzz Capra. That season gave up a league leading 29 HRs while going 14-16 for a Cubs team that finished fourth for a second straight year. 

 In 1978 he fell to a 7-13 record posting a 4.75 ERA and going back to the bullpen. In mid 1979 he was traded to the AL New York team for Dick Tidrow but pitched just 15 games there going 1-3. He was placed on waivers & got picked up by the New York Mets in late August.

Born Again Christian: In 1979 he became a born again Christian, tracing a conversation back to the previous year with teammate Dave Roberts. Burris said he had felt his attitude was wrong over the past few years & he made a commitment to Jesus Christ.

Mets Career: Burris came to a bad Mets team & was thrown in the rotation right away. Burris made his Mets debut on August 24th, 1979, pitching seven innings of two hit shutout ball against the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, he earned no decision as the Mets were shut out 1-0 Bill Bonham & Tom Hume.

Burris took losses to the Atlanta Braves & Montreal Expos in his next two games. He went 0-2 in
four appearances the rest of that year. 
Burris was an all-around good athlete and a good base runner who was sometimes used as a pinch runner.

1980: Burris was one of the most experienced pitchers on the 1980 staff. He began the year taking a loss in the second game of the season. He then beat a Montreal for his first win. 

On April 21st, he shut out the mighty Phillies pitching into the 8th inning, for his second win as the Mets got Steve Carlton for three runs in the 3-0 win.

On May 2nd, Burris went eight innings allowing only two hits to the San Diego Padres. The only run came on a botched pick off play of Willie Montanez at third base where catcher John Stearns threw the ball away. Burris took a 1-0 loss, as veteran Rick Wise & Steve Mura shut out the Mets. In his next start he held down the Reds, but two unearned runs because of Mets errors led to a 3-2 Met loss. 

He soon found himself at 4-5 in June but was pitching well enough to have an ERA of 2.94. 
On June 28th, in the first game of a twin bill at Philadelphia, he pitched nine innings holding the Phillies to one run getting no decision. The Mets got an RBI double from John Stearns to win it in the 10th.

He pitched just two innings on July 3rd, then broke his thumb & was out for the next month. Upon his return he earned a complete game win over the Expos in Montreal, holding them to one run on six hits. He then beat the reigning World Champion Pirates 3-1, pitching eight innings at Three Rivers Stadium.

On August 17th, that year's Champion Phillies handed him his worst start of the year, eight runs on ten hits & loss in the first of a double header at Shea. Burris had a good stretch in mid-August going 3-1, pitching beyond the 7th inning each time. He allowed less than two runs three times in five games. On August 22nd, he beat the Dodgers but then lost his last six decisions of the year to fall to 7-13.

He finished up 1980 with a 7-13 record, 83 strike outs 54 walks, 20 HRs allowed & a 4.02 ERA in
170 innings in 29 games. He led the Mets staff in games started (29) innings pitched (171) losses (13) and HRs allowed (29).

Post Mets Career: After the season he was a free agent and signed with the Montreal Expos. In the strike shortened 1981 season, he was 9-7 tied for second on the staff in wins behind Steve Rodgers. That year the Expos made their only post season appearance.

1981 Post Season: Burris lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in Game #3 of the NLDS, allowing four runs in 5.1 innings pitched. 

In the NLCS against the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, he was the winning pitcher in Game #2 throwing a five-hit shutout, beating Fernando Valenzuela at the height of "Fernandomania".

He struggled mightily in 1982 going 4-14 (fourth most losses in the NL) & was traded to the Oakland A's. In Oakland he made a great come back, winning 13 games, going 13-10 with a 3.15 ERA (9th best in the AL). Over the next three years he pitched in Milwaukee (1985 & 1987) as well as with the St. Louis Cardinals (1986).

Career Stats: Ray Burris finished up his 15-year career going 108-134 lifetime with a 4.17 ERA. He struck out 1067 batters, walked 764, allowed 221 HRs (161 all time) 1015 earned runs in 2188 innings pitched in 480 games.

Retirement: After his pitching days, Burris became a long-time pitching coach. First with the Milwaukee Brewers (1990-1991) Texas Rangers (1992) He stayed with Texas in their front office & minor leagues. 

He went to the Cardinals organization (2001-2005) then Detroit Tigers (2006-2012). He then moved into the Phillies organization in 2016. As of 2021 he still appears at baseball camps & is a motivational speaker. He lives in Clearwater, Florida.

Trivia: Burris is known to have a serious phobia of bees.


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